Josh Bolinger: Seeing Beyond the First World
How can we change our perspective?
How do we get past our own issues and learn to see our fellow citizens as our national family once more?
I know one great cure. Travel. And I don’t mean Paris. Go see what the real world is like. Spend some time in the third world, and then take a look at your own life, and see if you don’t feel a little better about your life, and about your neighbors.
Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I’ve been pretty fortunate. I’ve been homeless, and I’ve lived in the developing world, but I thank my lucky stars I never had to be homeless in the developing world. But when you spend some time outside the bright and beautiful bubble that is modern technical society, and see the lives of people who have to spend every single moment of their existence at a level of poverty that is practically nonexistent in the US, you really get a whole new appreciation for how blessed we are, and also, for how minor a lot of our disputes with our co-citizens really are.
They call them “first-world problems.”
Think of how many people living on this planet would love to be a few pounds overweight, as opposed to picking through mounds of trash to hold off starvation. Or to have a next-door neighbor who parks their car where you don’t want them to park it, instead of a next-door neighbor with a machete and an ethnic grudge.
We have allowed our perspectives to become warped by the wealth and power of our nation. Because most of us are well-fed and not subject to having our villages burned to the ground by warlords, we have allowed our leaders to convince us that minor differences of political opinion are deep, hateful divisions that make us completely unable to work together to make a better life for ourselves, and for our children.
We actually have it pretty good here, in a lot of ways, and the fact is, most of our neighbors are good people. A quick trip to places where that’s not the case can be a great reminder of these simple facts.